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Regular customers at Grafton Textiles Kay Kohn and Sharron Davison, admire the beautiful cotton fabrics and patterns they’re purchasing so they can make face masks as shop owner Stephen Ward enjoys the continuous popularity of his store. Image: Emma Pritchard.

South Grafton shop sewing success

The fabric of society may be changing, but Grafton Textiles are enjoying a consistent pattern of popularity.

For almost fifty years, the family owned store has been a prominent destination for craft enthusiasts throughout the region.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unravels life as we know it, customers are continuing to thread their way to the South Grafton shop.

Owner Stephen Ward said sales are “definitely up” compared to this time last year and the business is continuing to shine as brightly as the beautiful fabrics it sells.

“Once traveling got the OK again following the easing of lockdown restrictions, I was amazed how many visitors we’ve had,” he said.

While online, FaceTime consultations and over-the-phone sales were major contributors to the store’s performance during the early stages of the pandemic, Mr Ward said shoppers have been repeatedly visiting to stock up on supplies, especially for homemade face masks.

He said many customers, including regular shoppers Kay Kohn and Sharron Davison, often call in to purchase new cottons and elastic.

“There is definitely an increase in the number of people who come in wanting materials for face masks,” he said.

“People are getting a bit picky and worrying about throwing away disposable masks all the time, so we’re seeing a rush to source materials to make reusable ones.”
In early August, the Northern NSW Local Health District issued a media release, recommending the community wear face masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Face masks are becoming more widely encouraged,” Mr Ward said.

“They’re starting to become mandatory with a lot of businesses and suddenly we’re seeing more people making their own masks.”

The rise in people making their own masks is resulting in the number of regularly stocked items at Grafton Textiles, such as black fabric and elastic, being stretched.

“Elastic has become nearly impossible to get,” Mr Ward said, adding the store has run out of the highly sought-after product on a few occasions in recent months. He said t-shirt yarn has been a common substitute and a more comfortable alternative for some customers.

Black fabric has also been difficult to source as many businesses are asking employees to wear black masks and a lot of Mr Ward’s customers who have been sewing masks for family and friends in the workforce have been hurrying in and purchasing the colour.

While black fabric was not on her shopping list when she visited Grafton Textiles on August 19, avid sewing enthusiast Sharron Davison said she always enjoys browsing the unique range of materials and patterns when she is in store.

“I always love seeing which ones are available,” Ms Davison said.

“Choosing a pattern is half the fun and I’ve recently started learning to make face masks at home too, so it keeps me busy.”

When asked which patterns have been especially popular when purchasing cotton for face masks, Mr Ward said Aboriginal designs have “really come to the fore”.
“People seem to be loving them,” he said.

He added comic prints, redbacks and individual choices such as butterflies, dragonflies, horses, sheep, skulls and flames have also been well favoured.

Red Rock local and regular Grafton Textiles customer Kay Kohn, has only just started making face masks and although she can’t remember how many she has cut out at home, she is certain she has enough to keep her going for “a couple of weeks.”

Ms Kohn is making face masks for her family and delivered some during a recent visit to Grafton.

Although there were no redbacks, skulls or flames on the cotton squares she placed on the counter during her previous visit, she complimented the wide variety of patterns available at Grafton Textiles and said she would be returning soon for more craft supplies.